THEY SAY justice is blind but yesterday it also appeared to be hard of hearing when an innocent man was jailed after a juror's cough made a judge mishear the verdict.
Things had been looking up for defendant Alan Rashid after a two-day trial at Cardiff Crown Court, and his legal team were quietly confident when the foreman of the jury pronounced "not guilty" on the first of two charges before Judge Michael Gibbon. But as the foreman announced the second "not guilty" verdict, on charges of threats to kill, a member of the jury coughed, causing Judge Gibbon to mishear the verdict.
The judge promptly castigated Mr Rashid for the error of his ways before sentencing him to two years in prison.
A clearly dismayed Mr Rashid was taken down to the court cells while the jury, who had remained silent during the judge's sentencing, were thanked for their efforts and discharged.
Jurors apparently did not speak up when Mr Rashid, 32, of Llanrumney, Cardiff, was jailed because they assumed he was being sentenced for other offences they were not aware of.
Mr Rashid was only spared prison when one of the departing jurors asked a court official why the judge had given a two-year sentence to an innocent man.
The official realised there had been a mistake and, after examining tape recordings of proceedings, recalled all parties back to the courtroom. Back in the dock, Mr Rashid was told there had been a mistake, and Judge Gibbon said he was free to go.
Nicholas Williamson, the court manager, said: "It was a very bizarre situation and I've never heard of it happening before.
"One of the jurors was puzzled why he was jailed after being found not guilty and the judge was informed. Mr Rashid was a very relieved man when the judge explained what had happened."
Crown Prosecution Service officials who have listened to a recording of the proceedings said the foreman does appear to say "guilty" when asked for the jury's verdict.
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